May. 21, 2002
From Cottonbelt Festival to children's book, winning entries to NASA comet mission contest are submitted by four U.S. schools
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Katy Kaufman and her biology and physical science teacher Pam Vaughan from the town of Fordyce High School in Arkansas will set up a tent with displays about comets at the annual Fordyce on the Cottonbelt Festival. Meghan Cammilleri and her teacher Michael Stapleton at Northwestern Middle School, Regional School District No. 7 in Winsted, Conn., will write a children's book about comets and give copies to local libraries, schools and planetariums.
Both students and their teachers submitted two of the four winning entries in a national competition sponsored by NASA's Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) space mission and Cornell University. The two other winning teams were from schools in Buffalo, N.Y., and Guffey, Colo.
The space agency and Cornell had challenged students and their teachers in the United States to participate in the spacecraft's exploration of comets. The winning teams, two from a high school and two from a middle school and each consisting of a teacher and a student, will each receive $1,000 and attend the mission launch scheduled for July 1.
The CONTOUR mission is being managed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University, with Cornell's Department of Astronomy leading the international science team. As part of Cornell's educational outreach for the mission, students and their teachers were challenged to devise a program to educate and involve their communities about CONTOUR's goal to study at least two comets as they travel through the inner solar system. The spacecraft will provide the closest look ever at a comet's nucleus.
Laura Lautz, the mission's education and public outreach coordinator at Cornell, said proposals were received from 22 states. "The contest was very competitive, and the evaluation committee was very impressed with all the entries. All winners and runners-up should be proud of their accomplishments," she said. Winners were chosen by a panel of educators and scientists on the basis of the originality and feasibility of the submitted plans, she said.
The four students and their teachers will travel to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Fla., where they will watch the launch, meet CONTOUR scientists, take part in a variety of pre-launch educational events, tour the Kennedy Space Center and attend a briefing by scientists and engineers. Each team will be allowed a budget of up to $1,000 for its educational program and receive a kit of mission materials.
The 33 runners-up (12 from high schools, 21 from middle schools) will receive the kit of materials to help them follow through with their plans. They also will be able to watch the launch on their computers via web streaming and to ask questions of mission scientists following the launch.
Fordyce sophomore Kaufman calls her proposal "Comets on the Cottonbelt," and she and her teacher plan to take advantage of the town's annual festival to set up a tent with demonstrations of how to make a model comet, with comet facepainting, a video and a question-and-answer session. They also plan to make presentations to groups at the Dallas County Museum and to teachers at various conventions.
Junior Andrea Sease and her biology teacher, Marilou Bebak, at Nardin Academy High School in Buffalo, N.Y., call their proposal "Cool Comets. " At the Buffalo Museum of Science, where Sease has a part-time job with the Astronomy Department and Bebak works part-time in astronomy education, they plan a hands-on public presentation on comets and the mission. Their audience will be museum visitors, Scout troops and teachers. They also plan a comet section for the Nardin Academy and Buffalo Museum of Science web sites.
Cammilleri, who is in grade 8 at Northwestern Middle School, and Stapleton, her social studies/geography/history teacher, plan to donate copies of their children's book on CONTOUR and comets to local libraries, schools, and planetariums. Included in the book will be material for a teacher's lesson plan on comets. The two also will read from the book at the New Hartford Library during children's story hour.
Matthew Smith, who is in grade 8 at the town of Guffey Community Charter School in Colorado, and his science teacher Chris Peterson, call their proposal, "Rural Space Science Challenge." They plan a community meeting at their school to talk about the CONTOUR mission and their launch experiences. They also plan talks at the Denver Museum and to build a web site. Smith is building a collector for micrometeorites, tiny silicate and iron particles that fall to earth when space debris enters the atmosphere.
Related World Wide Web sites: The following site provides additional information on this news release. It is not part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over its content or availability.
o Comet Nucleus Tour: http://www.contour2002.org